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[Complete Details] Olive oil
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Olive oil is a vegetable oil that is obtained from olives and that provides mainly monounsaturated fatty acids, beneficial for cardiovascular health, and natural antioxidants such as polyphenols, carotenes and vitamin E. It is the basic pillar of the Mediterranean diet and has multiple healthy properties for the body and skin care.

Olive oil is extracted from the fruit of the olive tree (olea europaea), a tree of the Oleaceae family that is grown mostly in areas of the Mediterranean basin, Spain being the world's largest producer of olive oil, followed by Italy and Greece.

The use of olive oil for culinary and healing purposes is very old . There is evidence of its use in ancient Egypt although its expansion was lived in Classical Greece in the fourth century BC, and later, in Ancient Rome, in the third century AD.

In Spain it is believed that it was the Phoenicians who introduced olive cultivation, around the year 900 BC. However, its flowering occurred under Roman domination. Then, after some years of scarce use, it recovered with the Arab presence, especially in the territories of the old Al-Andalus . During the Middle Ages, its use declined as food and only in the southern regions did it continue to be consumed daily. It was the Spaniards and the Portuguese who introduced olive oil for the first time in America, specifically in the region of California.

The process of making olive oil begins after the collection, washing, drying and screening of olives. Next, they are grinded to extract the oil they contain. Next, the ground pasta is beaten so that all the oil is expelled. Finally, the solid part of the paste (pulp, bone, skin of the olive) and the liquid whipped by pressure or centrifugation are separated. After these stages the virgin olive oil is obtained.

In Spain there are more than 260 varieties of cultivated olive trees, which gives rise to different oils and denominations of origin, among them the Picual variety, Hojiblanca, Lechín, Picudo, Aloreña or Arbequina.

Olive oil has always had many uses, not only culinary. Since its appearance it has had an important medical application , as an element of ointments and liniments or as a medicine as such. Thus, for example, fasting oil was used as a laxative or to induce vomiting after the ingestion of a toxic product.

For a long time the intake of olive oil was discouraged because it was considered harmful to health, but nowadays many researches defend its nutritional and healthy qualities in cases of cardiovascular diseases , metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis , gastrointestinal ulcers , problems of skin dehydration, pressure ulcers or even to fight breast cancer , among others.

Properties Of Olive Oil

The virgin olive oil is considered very beneficial to health because it is rich in oleic acid, polyphenols, carotenoids, chlorophyll , monounsaturated fats and vitamins A , D , E and K. In addition provides much energy for its high fat content.

Olive oil is mainly composed of triglycerides and in lesser amounts by free fatty acids and other minor components such as sterols, tocopherols, carotenoids, chlorophylls or polyphenols .

The major fatty acid in olive oil is oleic acid , followed by saturated fatty acids (palmitic acid and stearic acid) and finally polyunsaturated fatty acids, mainly linoleic acid. In a very small proportion it also contains linolenic acid, which according to the EU regulation must be less than 0.9%. In this way, olive oil is the richest, of the oils that exist, in monounsaturated fats.

Although in the processes of refining the oil the quantities of the secondary components are reduced (tocopherols, polyphenols ...), their effects on health make them especially important in the studies and research on the benefits of olive oil. Thus, it should be noted the presence of b-carotene, tocopherol, phytosterols, such as B-sitosterol or phenolic compounds such as caffeic acid . All these components stand out as vitamins and natural antioxidants that can have lipid-lowering, anti-atherogenic and anti-inflammatory effects.

It should be known that extra virgin olive oil is the one with the highest nutritional quality, although in Spain the mixed olive oil is mostly consumed (virgin and refined oils), so its content in vitamins, phytosterols and polyphenols decreases considerably .

Benefits of Olive Oil for health

In recent years, numerous investigations have emerged that demonstrate the healthy qualities of olive oil and its protective effect against various diseases . Although traditionally olive oil has been the remedy against various problems of the digestive system and the skin, now it is also known that it can reduce cardiovascular risk , diabetes or hypertension , among other pathologies.

According to the Spanish study PREDIMED (Prevention with Mediterranean Diet), a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts can help prevent the metabolic syndrome . This syndrome refers to a set of metabolic disorders associated with abdominal obesity and an increased risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease. PREDIMED also refers to the role of virgin olive oil in reducing the risk of arteriosclerotic disease .

In the same line, some researches assure that the virgin olive oil has a preventive and beneficial role in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, for its content in oleic acid, since it helps to reduce the LDL cholesterol levels , the oxidation of the Low density lipoprotein (LDL) and blood pressure. In this way, it would be advisable for the prevention of hypercholesterolemia, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Olive oil, likewise, has beneficial effects on the digestive system. Thus, it prevents the formation of ulcers and exerts a direct effect on the pancreas and the liver, and may even reduce the incidence of biliary lithiasis . It also helps to fight constipation .

During pregnancy and lactation , the changes that occur in the development of the fetus and later in the baby, are accompanied by a decrease in vitamin E and arachidonic acid in plasma and maternal and fetal tissues. These effects can be avoided with the intake of olive oil. In addition, it is also good for the growth of young children or for the loss of calcium during aging because olive oil provides oleates and essential fatty acids that allow a good mineralization of the bones.

Some Spanish studies also talk about the protective role of olive oil to prevent pressure ulcers in elderly patients. This utility would be related to its moisturizing capacity, therefore, it is also very suitable to treat the dryness of the skin by applying it externally on it.

The relationship between cancer and the consumption of olive oil is beginning to be investigated , but already a clinical trial of 2015, coordinated by the University of Navarra and the Center for Biomedical Research in Network-Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBERobn) ), within the PREDIMED study, has concluded that the Mediterranean diet enriched with extra virgin olive oil can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by two thirds.

Dosage and use

The intake of olive oil provides an adequate supply of some important nutrients. In this sense, the moderate consumption of this oil covers the recommendations of monounsaturated fats and vitamin E that the body needs.

According to the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition, the recommended consumption of total fat and of the different types of fatty acids for the Spanish population is the following:
  • Total fat : between 30 and 35% of the total caloric content of the diet. Currently it is much higher, around 43%.
  • Saturated fatty acids: should not exceed 10%.
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids: Between 15 and 20%. Must be the majority fatty acid.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids : It should not exceed 5% of the caloric content of the diet.
Under these guidelines, an average consumption of 40 or 50 g / day (four spoonfuls per day maximum) of olive oil is recommended, which provides 15% of the total caloric value of a diet of 2,200 kcal.

Olive oil has been from the earliest days of its cultivation, a basic food in the diet of the countries bathed by the Mediterranean, in addition to having other medicinal, cosmetic or religious utilities. However, its nutritional properties and its beneficial effect on health began to be studied only half a century ago.

On the other hand, the recognition that the Mediterranean diet has acquired as an example of heart-healthy diet, has given olive oil a fundamental role in the prevention of many diseases.

Research carried out in recent years, consider that olive oil may be beneficial for the prevention of hypertension , atherosclerosis , diabetes , cardiovascular diseases or breast cancer.

As for its cosmetic use, olive oil is a natural hydrant for dry skin due to its moisturizing qualities, in addition to containing antioxidants that prevent premature aging of the skin. In this way, it is a very usual component in products such as creams, masks, shampoos or bath gels.

The consumption of olive oil in crude oil is one of the main culinary uses of the current diet , although it is also used in fried foods, stir-fry and roasts. Depending on the food to be seasoned, you can choose a mild olive oil or a stronger olive oil. In general, strong and fruity oils are ideal to accompany salads, vegetables and boiled white fish or to prepare scrambled or creams. On the contrary, soft oils are better for stir-fries, stir-fries or stews.

Possible adverse effects

Drinking olive oil in a moderate way has no side effects on health, however, excessive consumption can contribute to weight gain and promote the appearance of certain diseases related to obesity , such as certain cardiovascular problems.

For this reason, if medical nutritional guidelines are followed on the intake of fats in the diet, which should not exceed 30% of the total energy , four tablespoons of olive oil (preferably extra virgin) per day could be consumed.

On the other hand, if you are taking medications for diabetes or blood pressure , you must be careful with the consumption of this oil, since it lowers blood sugar and blood pressure .

Also, drinking too much olive oil can act as a natural laxative and cause diarrhea.

For many years olive oil was questioned for its supposed harmful effects on health, however, since 1954 studies began to emerge (Keys, Aderson, Grande ...) that showed that the death rate from cardiovascular diseases in the countries Mediterranean was lower than that of other Western countries, because of the quality of the fat consumed. Thus, with the rise of the Mediterranean Diet, the nutritional value of olive oil has begun to be recognized and is currently being studied in many areas of health.
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